Saturday, October 25, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #3, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

  • Title: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet
  • Author: Eleanor Cameron (1912–1996)
  • Illustrator: Robert Henneberger
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: First printing, September 1966
  • Back-cover text:
    "Chuck and David gasped. There, in the telescope, a tiny greenish dot appeared, shining through the vast black of outer space.

    "The mysterious little man spoke:

    "'I should like you two boys to set off this very night for the Mushroom Planet!'

    "'Tonight?' repeated Chuck faintly.

    "'But, how...' David began.

    "How, indeed, could they ever hope to reach that pale and ghostly moon. No other earth dwellers even knew it existed!"
  • Notes: OK, readers. Things are getting serious now, as we barrel into the Top Three of Scholastic Fest! ... Or perhaps, not so serious. ... This is the wonderfully silly and trippy cover to the 1966 Scholastic paperback edition of The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, a much-beloved and much-reprinted book by Eleanor Cameron. How beloved? It has a 4.6-star rating with more than 110 reviews on Amazon. And here is a gallery with the covers of some of the other editions that have been printed over the years...

    I think I like the Scholastic version best. Interestingly, the title page of this book states: "Drawings adapted from original illustrations by Robert Henneberger." That's an odd thing to say. Were his illustrations cropped? Were pieces of them cut out and moved around to form new Franken-illustrations? I believe that the illustration in the upper-left corner of the gallery that I posted is the original cover illustration from 1954. There are certainly some similarities between that cover and the Scholastic cover. Were the boys removed in favor of more prominent and goofy Little Green Men? More importantly, I cannot find any biographical information about illustrator Robert Henneberger. Even his Scholastic page is sadly blank. This needs to be rectified. Does anyone out there have any information on Henneberger? ... The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet author Cameron, meanwhile, was born in Canada but lived most of her life in the United States. Originally a librarian, she did not start writing children's books until her eight-year-old son, David, asked her to write an outer space story with him as the main character. This is that book. It was followed by four sequels. ... The plot of the book involves a tiny moon (not actually a planet) called Basidium that is just 50,000 miles from Earth. (The moon is about 225,000 miles from Earth, by comparison.) The plot also involves a chicken.1 ... Cameron also published an award-winning book titled The Court of the Stone Children in 1973, but her bigger "claim to fame" during that time might have involved her criticism of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:
    In a the first of a three part essay titled "McLuhan, Youth, and Literature", Cameron labeled Charlie "one of the most tasteless books ever written for children," finding it to be "sadistic" and "phony." She was especially chagrined at its use as a classroom read-aloud. Dahl replied in the February 1973 issue of Horn Book. He wrote that Cameron was entitled to her opinion about his book, but he felt that she had attacked his character as well. He also scoffed at her recommendation that teachers find better literature to share with their students: "I would dearly like to see Ms. Cameron trying to read Little Women, or Robinson Crusoe for that matter to a class of today's children. This lady is completely out of touch with reality. She would be howled out of the classroom."

1. According to a Google search, prior to the publication of this post:

No results found for "The plot also involves a chicken.".


Friday, October 24, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #4, Arrow Book of Baseball Fun

  • Title: Arrow Book of Baseball Fun
  • Editor: Ellen Stern Ryp
  • Illustrator: George Wilde
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Fourth printing (updated), April 1971
  • Excerpt:
    "Back in the early 1900's Cleveland's Ray Chapman was as proud of his batting ability as the next man. Except when he had to face the great Walter Johnson.

    "In one game, Johnson was pitching at the top of his form when Chapman stepped up to bat. Twice the ball streaked across the plate. Twice the umpire called, 'Ste-rike!' Then Chapman stepped out of the batter's box and started back to the dugout.

    "'Wait a minute,' the umpired called. 'You've got another strike coming.'

    "'Never mind,' Chapman shrugged. 'I don't want it!'"
  • Notes: This book slides into place nicely today, as the Kansas City Royals, featuring Jayson Nix, and San Francisco Giants, featuring Matt Duffy, prepare for Game 3 of the World Series tonight. ... First off, though, our scanner did not do an exemplary job in conveying accurately the color of this book cover. Pictured at right is another image, found on the Internet, of the book's cover. It better shows the "muted pea soup" green of the front. ... This is a bit of a Franken-book, as the copyright page explains that portions of it were selected and adapted from 1963's Baseball Funbook by Thomas Wallington Moran. That book was published by Doubleday & Company. ... The illustrations and adaptation, meanwhile, are copyright 1967 by Scholastic Magazines Inc. ... The 80-page book features baseball anecdotes, lists, puzzles, quizzes and more. Tons of great stuff for school-age baseball fans who might not have had many other resources to tap in a quest to satisfy their thirst for knowledge of America's pastime. ... Section headers include "No-Hitters," "Bat-Time Stories," "The Great Nine," "So You Know Your Baseball?" and "Last Laugh for the Umpire." ... I can't find much information about illustrator George Wilde, but I can tell you that he also provided the artwork for another Scholastic title, Arrow Book of Ghost Stories. That 1960s title has a glorious cover that would have landed it in the Top 10 of this countdown, is highly sought even today and is remembered fondly in this 2011 And Everything Else Too blog post. ... Finally, the two center pages of this book invite readers to write down their choices for the all-time all-star team. One former owner of this book did just that, scrawling the names in nice cursive writing. Here's a look at the picks, which include Yogi Berra, Jimmy [sic] Foxx, Maury Wills and Cy Young.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A pair of "Appetizing Recipes From Canned Foods"

Holy moly! We haven't had any new old recipes on here since August 6, back in the dogs days of summer.

So let's enjoy a couple from "Appetizing Recipes From Canned Foods." This 44-page staplebound booklet was published by the American Can Company of New York City.

The American Can Company was incorporated in 1901 and decades later, following a series of incomprehensible transactions, somehow formed part of the basis of the creation of Citigroup. Which makes me a little sad.

But we'll always have the recipes from back when the company was part of the Tin Can Trust and held one of the largest military production contracts in the United States.

One of the recipes, by the way, is called "Meat Salad Mold" and it's salmon-colored. We're not going to go there. Also, "Jellied Beet Salad" is right out.

Tomato Corned Beef Hash Cutlets
  • 1 1-pound can Corned Beef Hash
  • 2 medium-sized Tomatoes, peeled and chilled
  • Prepared Mustard1
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced Onion
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Margarine
Chill hash in can at least 6 hours or longer; remove from can by cutting both ends. Cut hash in 6 slices; place in shallow baking pan; spread tops with mustard. Cut tomatoes into ½-inch slices; placed on top of hash. Sprinkle tomato generously with salt and pepper then 1 teaspoon onion. Cover with bread crumbs and dot with margarine. Bake in moderately hot oven 375° F. about 30 minutes remove from pan with wide spatula to warmed serving plate and garnish with parsley or watercress. 6 servings.

Baked Crispy Peaches
  • ½ No. 2½ can Peach Halves2
  • ¾ cup Cornflakes
  • 3 tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Butter or Margarine
Drain peach halves. Crush cornflakes lightly. Rolls peach halves in cornflakes. Place peaches, hollow side up, in baking dish. Fill centers with sugar; dot with butter or margarine. Pour ¼ cup juice around peaches. Bake in moderately hot oven 375° F. for about 25 minutes until browned. Serve warm with cream or evaporated milk. 4 servings.
NOTE: Other cereal flakes may be used in place of cornflakes.3

1. Unprepared Mustard, on the other hand, is kind of pathetic. It's that condiment that always shows up late for the exam, wearing a T-shirt from last Tuesday and having not studied at all.
2. According to a chart elsewhere in the booklet, a No. 2½ can holds approximately 3½ cups and is used primarily for fruits, spinach, tomatoes, sauerkraut, beets and pumpkin.
3. For example, Kaboom or Sir Grapefellow breakfast cereals.

Scholastic Fest: #5, The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek

  • Title: The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek
  • Author: Evelyn Sibley Lampman (1907-1980)
  • Illustrator: Hubert Buel (1915-1984)
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Fifth printing, December 1968
  • Excerpt:
    "Joan moaned with fright, and the animal looked in her direction. The whole head turned with the eyes as it did so.

    "'You should say thank you,' said the creature. His voice, like his head, seemed much too small for the body. It was just an ordinary voice, such as you would expect to hear in any human being, but there was no inflection of words. They all came out in the same tone.

    "'Thank you,' answered Joan automatically. Then she remembered that animals, except parrots and magpies possibly, don't speak English, and her mouth fell open in even greater amazement.

    "'A-are you a dragon?' stammered Joey.

    "'No,' said the creature without surprise. 'I don't know what that is. I am a stegosaurus.'"
  • Notes: I did not read this book in my youth, but it's a much-loved classic from many childhoods and sports a fabulous Scholastic cover. ... Let's start right in with this excerpt from an emotional 2003 remembrance on Amazon:
    "This book changed my life.......
    Strange, but if I were to pick the two books that have had the biggest influence on my life, this would be one of them -- the other being The Brothers Karamazov (but that's another review). I remember reading this book, just before my tenth birthday. The story was so dramatic, so moving (remember -- I'm nine years old here), the characters so vivid -- even though I knew it was fiction, that there really wasn't any stegosaurus (never mind a shy one who spoke English & wagged his tail like a dog), that after finishing it, I cried harder than I ever remember crying in my life. NOTE: The stegosaurus does not die -- nobody dies. But somehow, that made it worse for me -- The seemly impossible bind of a continued lonely existence for the stegosaurus: too shy to meet anyone, too social not to."
    Phew! That's some heavy stuff. But typical of the love for this book, which has 27 five-star reviews (out of 32 total) on Amazon for a 4.8 overall rating. ... A reasonably priced reprint edition is available from Purple House Press for those who can't find one of the older Scholastic copies. (I will, however, mail MY copy for free to the first person to email their name and address to chrisottopa (at) This copy belongs in the hands of someone who once loved it.) ... Evelyn Sibley Lampman was the author of more than three dozen published books, many for children, during her lifetime. She is profiled in a wonderful essay by Truman Price on Old Children's Books. It describes how she was born and raised in Oregon and worked at a radio station in between trying to raise her kids. According to Price: "One day Evelyn’s 4th grade daughter complained that she had read everything in the school library, and couldn’t Mama write another book. Responding to demand, Evelyn set to work." ... Meanwhile, according to this short biography of illustrator Hubert Buel, he was born and raised in California. In the early 1930s, he studied watercolor painting at Fresno State College and later worked briefly at Walt Disney Studios. After serving with the Navy in the South Pacific in World War II, he worked as a Hollywood set designer and then art director of a San Francisco newspaper. He greatest artistic passion was watercolor painting. ... A final tangental note: When I was researching this post, I came across the work of photographer Kerry Mansfield. One of her passions is photographing discarded library books. And one of the photos in the jaw-droppingly gorgeous gallery on her website features, of course, a beat-up (aka "much-loved") copy of The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek. Here's an excerpt from an article that Matt McCann of The New York Times wrote about Mansfield in June 2013:
    "[T]he nostalgic tug of the old cards and the books they’re glued to compelled her to photograph, as she characterized it, obsessively.

    "This relationship with books is textural — the dog-eared corners or the imprints left by scrawls in the margins are what appeal to Ms. Mansfield’s eye. There is one book from the Hadley Library with 'mold damage on it, and that’s beautiful to me,' she said.

    "'I also truly love paper,' she said. 'I don’t know how else to put that.'

    "Her photographs also reveal details that will disappear as scanners replace cards and tablets replace books."
    If love old books in all their well-used glory, please check out Mansfield's work. You'll be glad you did.